Dear IAWP affiliates and allies,
We are happy to start this 2024 by sharing with you an update of a very busy last quarter of 2023, of “Struggles and Victories: Waste Pickers on the Frontline ”. In this newsletter (complete version available online) we showcase for the very first time the news from our formally approved affiliates. After our constitution was launched during our First Congress in October 2022, this past year has been focused on the affiliation process, finalised in October 2023. We are proud to let you all know the International Alliance of waste pickers has 50 organisations from 34 countries, representing more than 460,000 waste pickers members from around the world.
However, the struggle for survival is an ongoing fight. We did not remain silent on the suffering of the Palestinian people and we published a solidarity statement in November which sadly remains relevant even today. Our engagement at UN Plastic Treaty negotiations continued with a strong delegation in Nairobi. We launched our Just Transition report at the Brazilian Embassy and we joined efforts with environmental justice groups, indigenous communities and the trade union global federations. We hope you feel as proud as us for the great work done by our affiliates in all parts of the world.
In May, 2024 we will meet at our Second Congress for our first democratic elections with our delegates from all affiliate organisations in Buenos Aires. Stay tuned for more updates about this very important event and for our next 6 months agenda.
Lucia Fernandez, Acting General Secretary,
On behalf of IAWP Communications Team
Table of contents
Waste Pickers on the Frontline (International)
Struggles and Victories (Regions)
→ African Affiliates
→ Asia-Pacific Affilaites
→ Latin American Affiliates
→ North American Affiliates
→ European Affiliates
IAWP’s Agenda: upcoming in next six months
Waste Pickers on the Frontline (International)
The International Alliance of Waste Pickers has finalised its affiliation process
Following the adoption of our Constitution in 2022, the IAWP staff, in collaboration with the Acting Working Committee (our temporary leadership body until elections), prioritised the affiliation process from June to October 2023. This resulted in the successful affiliation of 50 organisations from 34 countries, representing over 460,000 waste pickers. The importance and value of this process relies on the fact that we now have organisations members not only comply with our Constitution but also have established their own internal democratic structures. Their constitutions, values, and missions are aligned with our International Alliance, strengthening the foundation of our movement.
We still have promising prospective affiliates from across Asia, Latin America, Africa, and North America waiting to be considered once affiliations reopen. Moving forward, we aim to further solidify and expand our Union by fostering closer collaboration with our existing affiliates
Find more information on our Where we are page.
IAWP delegation represents worker rights at the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee during discussion on the Plastic Treaty
IAWP delegation, waste pickers from Nairobi group photo at Brazilian embassy after the event on Just Transition on November 15th in Nairobi.
A delegation of 10 waste pickers from nine countries, across five continents (Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, North and Latin America) participated in the 3rd Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) in Nairobi to present their perspectives during the ongoing negotiations for a Global Plastic Treaty. With more than 20 million waste pickers across the world, the Plastics Treaty may have a significant impact -good or bad- on livelihoods around the world.
At the start of INC-3, waste pickers demanded that the treaty recognize and protect their essential role. They sought incorporation of the term “waste picker” throughout the text, along with explicit references to a “just transition” for their livelihoods. Importantly, they aimed to secure clear definitions for these terms and for “workers in informal and cooperative settings.
IAWP is thrilled to announce its achievements! Not only did we secure an independent proposed article on just transition, but references to it also permeate the proposed objectives, articles on EPR, capacity building, technology transfer, national plastic pollution plans, and even definitions. Additionally, member states agreed to define “waste pickers” and “just transition,” while the draft treaty text itself acknowledges the importance of safeguarding waste pickers’ livelihoods, improving their income, and establishing strong social safety nets within the just transition framework.
IAWP’s Acting General Secretary, Lucia Fernández featured in a documentary on Insider Business, emphasising the vital role of waste pickers in global waste management. She emphasised on the need for policies that can impact waste pickers’ lives. “For example, if you retire, you get a pension, because you’ve been cleaning your city for 40 years, so social protection is very important,” she says. “In Colombia, in Brazil, in South Africa, in India and some places in North America, they have started being recognised by their governments or municipalities”. The documentary highlights how workers were able to form the IAWP after a 30-year fight for fair wages and legal protection. Watch here.
Joint Statement with trade unions as part of the Major Workers group
Because waste pickers are not the only workers that are going to be affected by the Plastic Treaty, we have joint efforts during INC-3 in Kenya to have a unified voice with other international workers unions: International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), IndustriALL, Public Services International (PSI), and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). Read the full statement here.
IAWP stands in Solidarity with Palestine
January 30th, marked the 116th day of Israel’s assault on Palestine, killing over 28000 individuals including women and children. Almost two million Gazans, more than 85 percent of the population, have fled their homes since Israel began its military operation. Waste pickers around the world are no strangers to injustice, discrimination, and exploitation, with extreme violent conflicts and displacements often forcing many individuals to resort to recycling to survive. Therefore, our struggle is inextricably linked to what is happening to the people living, dying, and displaced from the Gaza region. We stand in solidarity with those affected by ongoing conflicts, demanding an immediate ceasefire and the full respect of international humanitarian law. Read the full statement here.
Solidarity with Argentinian affiliates
The International Alliance of Waste Pickers stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its affiliate FACCyR (Argentine Federation of Waste Pickers) and working class comrades in the historic January 24th general strike against the encroaching power of Capital and its threat to workers’ rights. This demonstration of solidarity echoes through Latin America and beyond, reminding us of the hard-won social justice that Argentina once championed. Read the full statement here in English and Spanish.
IAWP affiliates were part of International Trade Union School
Delegates Kris Brown (Ground Score, USA), Abdelsslem Benhamed (Amelior, France), and Vicky Bringas (FACCyR, Argentina) participated in a global youth delegation at a Paris, France, event organised by the Global Labour Institute in November 2023. The delegates collaborated with representatives from WIEGO, IDWF, and StreetNet in workshops focusing on organising informal, precarious, and migrant workers. The event, attended by 110 representatives from 28 countries and 57 different organisations, covered diverse topics such as trade union history, challenges in organising, youth involvement, countering authoritarianism, feminism, and environmental concerns, fostering rich exchanges and global solidarity. Read more here.
IAWP Publications #
We have opened a new section in our website to feature all the publications.
The IAWP, in its position paper, calls for a fair and inclusive transition to a circular economy for plastics prioritising the needs and rights of waste pickers. These steps include: 1) Recognizing and formalising the role of waste pickers in the plastic waste management system; 2) Providing social protection and decent work conditions for waste pickers; 3) Investing in training and capacity building for waste pickers; 4) Ensuring that waste pickers have a meaningful say in the design and implementation of plastic waste management policies and programs.
Waste pickers are essential to the global plastic waste management system. They collect and sort recyclable materials, which helps to reduce pollution and conserve resources. However, waste pickers often work in hazardous conditions and are denied basic labour rights. Read the position paper.
Argentina’s guidelines for the Implementation of Integrated and Inclusive Waste Management, championing inclusive practices, is now available in English! FACCyR, with IAWP support, translated it, empowering waste picker organisations worldwide to learn from this successful model. Read the Guidelines here
Report of Mapping the Landscape of Waste Pickers in Pakistan: Challenges, Opportunities, and Organisational Strategies
Ouroboros and Circular Plastics Institute (CPI) comprehensive report on the Landscape of waste pickers in Pakistan, commissioned by IAWP and WIEGO, is first of its kind in Pakistan and sheds light on the waste picker landscape in the region. It maps challenges, opportunities, and strategies, paving the way for meaningful collaboration with waste pickers. Listen to discussion on report launch here.
The Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers (AIW) released new research into Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), and the impacts it has on Indian waste pickers: Waste Pickers: The Missing Piece in India’s EPR Puzzle. AIW highlights comprehensive understanding of the specific difficulties encountered by waste pickers in relation to EPR implementation, with a focus on urban areas of India. This report delves into the practical implementation of EPR and its profound impact on the lives and livelihoods of waste pickers, critical issues and the real-world implications of EPR in India. Additionally, the study evaluates the current level of integration of waste pickers within the Extended Producer Responsibility framework. Read full report here.
Struggles and Victories (Regions) #
ASWOL Sheds Light on Successful Plastic Recycling (Nigeria)
Our affiliate, the Association of Scraps and Waste Pickers Lagos (ASWOL) shed light in this documentary on how to make a good plastic recycling business in Nigeria and why some plastic recycling waste businesses fail in Nigeria.
IAWP Mourns Tragic Loss in Guinea Explosion, Urges Swift Integration of Waste Pickers into Formal Systems (Guinea)
The International Alliance of Waste Pickers (IAWP) is shocked and saddened by the untimely passing of three waste pickers who regrettably lost their lives in a fuel depot explosion incident in Guinea’s capital city on Monday 18th December 2023. Read letter of support.
Packaging Industries deny waste pickers’ livelihoods in ignoring their Extended Producer Responsibilities (SAWPA, South Africa)
Important insights from South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA) in National Coordinating Committee (NCC) on Packaging Industries deny waste pickers’ livelihoods in ignoring their Extended Producer Responsibilities. Read press statement.
Recognition, integration, service fee we demand (KeNaWPWA, Nairobi)
At INC-3 in November 2023 in Nairobi, the Kenya National Waste Pickers Welfare Association (KeNaWPWA) created and performed participatory theatre performance. One of the pieces included this waste pickers anthem written by Solomon featuring Dash Johnte and recorded in Dandora (Nairobi) that asks for Recognition, integration and service fee. It was recorded at the Dandora Hiphop City project (Nairobi), a project that uses music to promote integration and education, at the nearby Dandora landfill. Watch video.
Bokk Diom workshop to demand proper recognition (Senegal)
Waste pickers in Dakar, Senegal gathered for a three-day workshop with the PROMOGED representatives who are managing the transformation and closure of the landfill. The workers say they have not been properly included or consulted throughout the process since the project was announced in 2018. The Bokk Diom association, with the support of WIEGO, advocated strongly to denounce these practices, and led to a meeting between the two parties to address reclaimers’ needs. At the heart of this collaboration lay the waste pickers’ key demands: long-term support for their newly formed cooperative, skills training in the mechanized waste system, secure income through continued access to materials, and targeted initiatives to empower women and boost their earning potential. This collaborative approach offered a beacon of hope for a smooth transition during the landfill closure, ensuring the livelihood of those who had long relied on it.
Bangladesh Waste Picker Union Pushes for Plastic-Free Future in Key Meeting with Department of Environment
Leaders of the Bangladesh Waste Picker Union (BWPU) had a meeting with the Director of the Department of Environment (DoE) in Bangladesh. The meeting focused on updates from the plastics treaty negotiations and demands of waste pickers. During the meeting, BWPU leaders Kulsum, Alamgir, and others shared the key demands of waste pickers, emphasizing a just transition to a single-use plastic-free future with the integration of waste pickers into waste management. The Grambangla Unnayan Committee and WIEGO supported and facilitated this meeting.
Municipality Renews Contract with SwaCH Cooperative for 5 More Years, Celebrating a Victory for 3000+ Waste Pickers (Pune, India)
Travelling 800 km from Pune to Nagpur in India, 125 waste pickers from Pune demanded long term renewal of SwaCH coop contract. As a result of their struggle Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has extended its contract with SwaCH cooperative for door-to-door waste collection for another 5 years! This is a huge victory for the 3000+ waste pickers who provide this essential service to 70% of Pune city. Read more here.
Waste picker CO2 reduction (Bengaluru, India)
Waste pickers in Jayanagar, Bengaluru, India, save over 1,700 tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to removing 388 passenger cars from the road! Using WIEGO’s GreenHouse Emissions Calculator 2.0, Hasiru Dala in Bengaluru assessed the role of Dry Waste Collection Centres over the course of a year. Read more here
Affiliate starts school for children of Waste Pickers (Bengaluru, India)
Indumathi (Thyajya Shramikha Sangha), a waste picker from Bengaluru, India, started a school for children of other waste pickers. This was in response to the need for childcare and education among informal workers, which allows them to work more hours and earn better incomes. Indumathi herself started as a sorter in a dry waste collection center in 2016. She then became an operator, and in 2017, she started door-to-door collection, educating residents about waste segregation and building relationships with them. Now, Indumathi runs three dry waste collection centers and employs 88 people. She also provides them with accommodation and collects waste from over 52,000 households, processing 3,000-5,000 kgs of waste each day.
Sanitation workers take centre stage in panel series in India (Delhi)
The ‘We Speak Too’ series saw hundreds of people come together to hear the stories of sanitation workers, and was held in six cities across India. The panels, held in Bangalore, Mumbai, Bhopal, Patna, Dehradun and Delhi, featured prominent journalists and academics in discussion with workers from throughout the value chain, from sewage maintenance officers to waste pickers. Shalini Sinha, the host of the Delhi edition of the series, reported in Citizen Matters on the powerful stories heard at the event. Watch the videos here
Latin American Affiliates
Redlacre Secretariats meets in Brazil during Expocatadores
For its 10th edition, the traditional Expocatadores took place in December 2023 in the city of Brasilia with the presence of important dignitaries like President Lula Da Silva along with Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Marina Da Silva and other government representatives. As part of this important event, the Latin American Network Secretariats of IAWP affiliates met for two days to discuss our IAWP Congress Procedures with the presence of our Acting General Secretary. They also discussed Human Rights implications for closing of dumpsites in the region with inputs from WIEGO experts.
Video Game “Argentina Recycles” features the work of waste pickers
“Argentina Recycles” marks the first video game developed by the Argentina Recycles Joint initative o Ministry of Social Development, National Secretariat of Media and Public Communication. Through three engaging scenarios, players join forces with the dedicated urban waste collectors of Argentina. Together, you’ll follow the fascinating path of waste as it navigates its way through diverse urban settings, all while solving captivating puzzles and overcoming playful obstacles. You can play it by clicking on this link. “Argentina Recycles” is also part of the “Crear Juegos en Argentina” initiative, which champions the creation of playful and culturally enriching video games. This platform encourages the production of games that celebrate Argentine heritage and values, while providing enjoyable and educational experiences for players of all ages.
IAWP takes part in the Central Única de Trabajadores (CUT) congress in Sao Paulo (Brazil)
Marking its 40th anniversary, Brazil’s Central Única de Trabajadores (CUT) hosted a global union congress in October. Over 100 union leaders from across five continents participated, including IAWP representatives Yenny González (president of the Panamanian Movement of Recyclers) and Severino Lima Jr. (representative of Brazil’s National Waste Pickers Movement). The goal was to “contribute to defining strategies and actions for future struggles,” as explained by the CUT headquarters. In total, a remarkable 2,500 delegates representing 46 delegations from 30 countries, along with 150 prominent figures, attended the Congress. Notably, the event was hosted by CUT-SP, the first state union ever founded in Brazil (established in1984). Read more here.
First Waste Picker director at Universidad Nacional de la Plata (Argentina)
Marisa Cantariño is a recycler, environmental promoter, and a tireless social activist. In October 2023 she was appointed Director of Popular Economy at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata UNLP(Argentina). She was interviewed by Barricada TV , where she said”Now we are going to have the opportunity to speak for ourselves, with the knowledge we have. Providing a link between the University and the areas of worker representation. Argentine Federation of Waste Pickers (FACCyR) Feels that her journey is fundamental to promote a space within the university to builds bridges with the work and traditional knowledge, nurturing debates, and knowledge building regarding Popular Economy.
Ecuador ensures redeemable tax on non-returnable plastic bottles
The Government of Ecuador, on September 20, 2023, issued the Decree-Law establishing a redeemable tax on non-returnable plastic bottles, following a favorable ruling by the Constitutional Court. The government estimates this measure will benefit 20,000 recyclers, who will receive USD 0.02 for each bottle collected. The full deposit amount will only be returned to certified “recyclers-transformers,” as defined by the joint certification issued by the Ministry of Production and the Ministry of Environment
North American Affiliates
Barbra Weber features in NPR’s Next Gen Radio (USA)
Barbra Weber, a part of Ground Score in Portland, Oregon USA, featured in NPR’s Next Gen Radio project. Ground Score Association (GSA) is an association of informal recyclers, waste pickers, canners, dumpster divers, and other environmental workers who create and fill low-barrier waste management jobs in Portland, Oregon. Barbara is now one of the IAWP delegates that will participated in INC-3 in Nairobi. It’s the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. Read more here.
Rete ONU claims for recognition of the most vulnerables (Italy)
Pietro Luppi, who was part of the delegation of the International Alliance of Waste Pickers at INC-3 in Nairobi this past November, together with Leotron, spoke in this video about the need for recognition of vulnerable people in the recovery chain. Also presents his views in this article Rete ONU Nairobi calls for a just transition.
IAWP’s Agenda: upcoming in next six months #
These are our key events for this first half of the year, in preparations for our first elective congress and the transition required afterwards as well as continuation of our advocacy agenda:
- 20 to 24th. 2nd North America IAWP Regional meeting. Portland, Oregon. USA.
- 1-3rd. Training on Just Transition, International Labour Organization (ILO). Recommendation 204 and National Labour Laws. Organised by the Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers with the participation of Indian affiliates and supported by Plastic Solution Fund.
- To be decided. Africa regional meeting. Abuja, Nigeria.
- 27th to 2nd. 1st Asia-Pacific IAWP Regional meeting. Kathmandu, Nepal supported by the IAWP and Plastic Solution Fund.
- To be decided. March Redlacre secretariats in Chile.
April: 20th to 30th. UN Plastic Treaty negotiation. INC-4. Ottawa, Canada.
May: 1st-5th. First IAWP Elective congress. Buenos Aires, Argentina.
June: 1st to 14th. ILO Conference. Geneve, Switzerland.
That’s all folks, stay tuned for further updates!